Baba Yaga’s Halloween Tale
By Joy Preble (author of the DREAMING ANASTASIA series, Sourcebooks, and the forthcoming THE SWEET DEAD LIFE, Soho Press)
Baba Yaga sat in her hut in the forest. She was not still, never still. The mighty Baba Yaga was always in motion. Underneath the hut, two chicken legs scrabbled the earth, carrying her house this way and that. No predators could find her unless she willed it to be. Lost boys and girls might stumble upon her, but everyone knew what happened to them. Eaten. Ground to dust in the witch’s mortar, crushed into nothingness by the same pestle with which she stirred the air as she flew.
In her rocking chair by the fire, she mused and dreamed and planned. Her iron teeth glinted in the firelight and her huge hands rested on her lap. When she desire hot sweet tea to quench her thirst, one hand detached from her wrist and scuttled down her leg to the floor, clattering its thick, long nails on the wood as it went to fetch her drink. It was nice to be a witch. Nice to have the power. Occasionally a too thin child stuck between her teeth. But why quibble? She was Baba Yaga. These things sometimes happened.
But today her worries gnawed at her like she would often gnaw a stray child’s leg bone. Halloween was coming. All Hallow’s Eve. The night that spirits rose and walked the earth and things that went bump in the night showed themselves, solid and real as the humans who ran from them.
“Do not worry, Mistress,” her three horsemen—one red, one black, one white—told her. “You are the mighty Baba Yaga. The Wild Crone. You hold the power. What is one silly night?”
This did comfort her, a little. But here was thing: Baba Yaga had never appeared as anything but herself. What would it hurt, she pondered now, one enormous detached hand tapping at her huge chin, if for one night, she became something else?
The thought careened through her brain, then settled. Yes. She would do it. From under her rocking chair by the fire, her cat mewed loudly, threading its way around her roughened ankles. In the fire, the bones of the girl she had eaten for breakfast knocked against the huge logs as the remaining scraps of flesh burned.
But here was the question, as curious as that brat Vasilisa who had bested her by relying on the tiny magic doll she kept in her pocket. The girl who had been sent into the witch’s forest to get fire and who had lived. Baba Yaga admired Vasilisa as much as she despised her.
What did a witch become when she chose to wear a costume?
Baba Yaga rocked and sipped her hot sweet tea.
What indeed? Did she dare? Would she be so bold?
She would go as what she once was – a beauty who had sold her looks for power. She would dance and sing and remember.
And then, she would eat her fill of those pesky trick or treaters.
There was nothing like second hand Twizzler taste.
Yes. This was the plan.
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